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Automakers wary about electric vehicles

Posted: 13 Nov 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:electric vehicle  hybrid car  automotive 

The majority of traditional automakers are treading carefully with the development of electric vehicles (EVs), according to Gartner Inc. This cautious attitude is aimed at minimising infrastructure-related risks and maximising return from previous investments made to optimise combustion engines.

Gartner predicts that in industrialised automotive markets, battery-powered vehicles including plug-in full-electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, will represent 5 to 8 per cent of all vehicles sold using various types of propulsion technologies by 2020. Battery-powered vehicles will account for 15 to 20 per cent of all vehicle sales by 2030.

"Prospects for the successful development, launch and sale of EVs in industrialised global markets are maturing as a result of automotive industry and technology advancements, infrastructure developments, as well as societal and political trends," said Thilo Koslowski, research VP at Gartner. "These factors have the potential to lower costs for EVs, simplify the customer ownership experience and accelerate overall market adoption."

Koslowski highlighted the key factors that will impact EV adoption in the future. He said that to test EV market acceptance and prepare for a potential boost in EV production, virtually all global mainstream automobile manufacturers are planning to bring at least one EV model to market in the next four years; some plan to do so even sooner. The growth in EVs is also opening the door to emerging vehicle manufacturers that specialise in the design, development and sale of battery-powered automobiles. Furthermore, the emergence of new supply chain partners that provide engineering, powertrain components, testing and battery offerings continues.

At the same time, key technological advancements are prerequisites for creating dependable battery-powered vehicles in the future. Increased energy density for various chemical compositions in EV batteries and new powertrain designs with increased reliability is needed. So are advanced software control models for energy, battery and temperature management. Standards also need to be addressed, including the SAE J1772 initiative for standardising EV charging plugs, which is likely to be adopted by most OEMs this year.

Gartner notes that infrastructure development requires massive investments to provide users with a seamless transportation experience for battery-powered vehicles. To this end, infrastructure efforts need to accomplish new forms of collaboration between vehicle manufacturers, energy providers, charging service providers and vehicle owners. Gartner predicts that EV brokers will play a critical role in achieving this required collaboration aimed at simplifying EV ownership, but brokers' business models will need to adapt to a changing value chain over the next five years.

Consumer awareness about the operational costs of passenger vehicle ownership and the desire to meet environmental objectives has grown steadily in developed countries over the last three years in response to rising awareness about global warming, higher fuel costs and vehicle emissions. At the same time, regional governments have also increased their financial support for EV development.

Gartner predicts that governmental support for EV and other alternative propulsion technologies will continue until competitive market dynamics are strong enough to ensure sufficient momentum. Governments will also play a vital role in enforcing the standardisation of critical technology elements that will accelerate infrastructure deployments. For example, governments could require that automakers make battery charge information available to other companies in order to develop reliable charging solutions and manage electric grid requirements.

For more statistics and forecasts, click here.

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